AUSTIN – With major parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) taking effect in the coming months, the Texas Association of Health Underwriters is warning consumers to be wary about releasing personal information in the process of purchasing health coverage to comply with the new law.
Attempts to defraud consumers have already been reported as scam artists attempt to exploit confusion about the law and illegally gain access to social security numbers, credit cards, bank accounts and other personal information.
While the federal government has provided millions of dollars for navigator and other consumer assistance programs to assist with the rollout of the ACA, the lack of screening, training and accountability of those efforts has raised additional concerns about the privacy and security of sensitive information. These concerns prompted 13 state attorneys general, including Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, to request in August stronger safeguards be considered by the federal government to protect consumers.
Beginning in October, consumers and small employers will have the option to purchase health insurance through Health Insurance Marketplaces, referred to as Exchanges. Many consumers will find themselves facing decisions regarding coverage, co-pays and co-insurance they have not previously considered. The potential for fraud, combined with concerns about inadequate protections in the government’s outreach efforts, have advocacy and professional groups warning that unfamiliarity with the law and details about insurance coverage could make individuals vulnerable targets for identify theft and other scams. As part of the enrollment in a health plan, consumers will be providing sensitive personal data on applications, putting their information at risk for potential misuse.
Mark Bellman, president of the Texas Association of Health Underwriters, stated, “The rollout of the Affordable Care Act could prove to be a perilous time for consumers who fail to exercise caution and prudence in their attempts to purchase health insurance in the months ahead. If consumers purchasing coverage are not confident in their decisions, the process, or the individuals with whom they are dealing, then it is recommended that they seek the advice of a professional benefit adviser in their area.”